Best tradeshow marketing tips and case studies. Call 800-654-6946.
Best tradeshow marketing tips and case studies. Call 800-654-6946.


Your Tradeshow Marketing Questions Answered [Webinar Replay]

It appears that our first webinar of 2016 went off with a hitch or a hiccup. At least that’s what it felt like! Here’s a replay in case you missed it:

Sign up for future webinars at Our next one is set for February 16 at 10 am Pacific, and will feature Hiett Ives of Show Dynamics, Inc. of Houston Texas. The title of his presentation is “Tradeshow Leads Guaranteed” so you’ll want to make sure to attend!

Tradeshow Blogs and Articles – A Quick One

Time to wrap up a handful of recently spotted articles and blog posts about tradeshows.


Let’s start with the Huffington Post. Shuly Oletzky of Frigibar Industries posts this nice look at 9 Ways to Make the Most Out of Your Appearance at a Tradeshow. Many great ideas here.

If you want some food for thought, check out’s The Death of Tradeshows by Dev Aujla, the Founder of DreamNow.

In the news, the White House has announced that President Obama is going to attend the world’s largest tradeshow for industrial technology. Here’s the Associated Press with the story.

TechCrunch believes that the recently completed 2016 Consumer Electronics Show is now a show for start-ups. Here’s their take.

David Saef at goes over The Secrets to Making Live Events Worth Every Penny.

Spark Pay details How to Get Prospects Flocking to Your Booth at a Tradeshow. Some great ideas here, such as investing in look and feel, the use of technology and getting the best location you can.

3 Common Mistakes of Tradeshow Exhibitors (And How to Avoid Them) comes from Contributing Writer Spider Graham at the Business Journals.

And finally Exhibitor magazine chimes in with tradeshow Budgeting: Stats and Formulas. Always a useful thing when preparing for a tradeshow.

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Round-the-Clock Branding at Tradeshows

Tradeshows are a great opportunity to promote your company. Yeah, we all knew that already.

But are you promoting the company’s brand away from the tradeshow floor?

If you have branded shirts, wear them as you travel. Put the shirt on prior to leaving for the airport. There’s a good chance someone will be on the same flight going to the same show. If they’re familiar with your brand, it might prompt them to strike up a conversation with you. If not, maybe they’ll remember the logo when they walk the floor and see your booth.


At the show, you’ll have your show badge, but what if you had a personal name tag as well? Something like that would stand out a little, too, giving people another chance to remember your name and company name. Getting a name badge with your company name and your name costs only a few bucks, and you can wear it at all public events.

If your company throws parties for clients and prospects at the show, there’s another opportunity to show off the brand with embroidered shirts and name tags, not to mention some other item, such as a kiosk in the corner of the room that allows people to charge cell phones. If you have one of those branded charging stations for the booth, there might be other opportunities to use that away from the tradeshow floor. Think where you might find that opportunity.

Tradeshows are full of competing companies, all vying to get their name out in front of their competition and in front of your eyeballs. Finding other opportunities to brand your company away from the tradeshow floor might give you that edge you’ve been looking for.

Get a Charge with Custom Charging Stations [blatant product plug]

Yes, I occasionally post an absolutely blatant product placement. But let’s face it – when it’s a cool customizable charging station like this one, it’s worth plugging. Classic Exhibits just posted this video on their blog, and since we are a distributor and work with Classic all of the time, I wanted to share. Here’s Mel from Classic Exhibits explaining what’s going on with this:

Learn more about the charging station and how you can make it work for you here.

Breaking the Ice – How to Engage Tradeshow Visitors

With all of the moving parts in your tradeshow marketing program, there is one area that stands out above all the rest as being critical to your success – how to break the ice and engage tradeshow visitors.

engage tradeshow visitors

And since this is a compelling question that needs concrete answers, I thought it worthwhile to bring in one of the pros at tradeshow engagement, Andy Saks of Spark Presentations. Andy has been training company booth staff in the art and science of engagement for years. I thought it would be an easy thing to have him share a few questions that he teaches his clients about how to engage, but it’s much more complicated than that! Of course it is.

As Andy describes it, booth staffers often walk into a booth shortly before the show begins, seeing it for the first time, and it’s a beautiful piece of branding that the company obviously spent a lot of time and money on. The booth is MUY IMPORTANTE, which immediately makes the staffers feel like they’re there to support this awesome booth and company. But it’s not necessarily the way it should be.

“The booth is there to support you, not the other way around,” said Andy. Without training, a booth staffer often feels like they are there to field questions and direct traffic. But a properly trained staffer who understands the situation – fully understands the entire scope of appearing at a tradeshow to gather leads and convert them into a customer – has a better understanding of how to approach engagement. Which will result in more leads and more business.


When you’re standing in a tradeshow booth, everything you do or do not do is reflecting your company back to the attendee. You’re representing them in everything you do. Something that’s minor and innocuous in any other situation is seen in a much different light at a tradeshow. If you’re eating food, for instance, in that moment a potential client sees that act of you gulping down a hotdog, the underlying message is ‘it appears they are not ready for me to engage with them; they’re not ready for me to be their customer.’

Everything you do in a booth, from eating, talking on a cell phone, standing with your arms folded, sitting in the back of the booth is sending a message to prospective clients that you’re trying to reach, and the message is: we’re not ready for you, please go somewhere else. So all that money spent on the booth and on staff travel and lodging is then wasted on that prospect.

DOs and DON’Ts

  • DO Stand around the edge of the booth, within a couple of feet of the edge of the booth.
  • DO Stand alone, not in a group of people (which is intimidating).
  • DON’T be holding anything that the attendee might consider a potential distraction.
  • DON’T be drinking coffee, which sends a message that you’re not at 100%.
  • DO be smiling, and really making a concerted effort to smile and put on your best face.
  • DO wear your badge high on your chest, preferably on your right shoulder, so that it’s easy to see and read and sends a signal that ‘it’s important to me that you know my name.’


Now that you’ve made yourself the most appealing thing at that moment, you move to the QUALIFYING stage. The goal is to ask smart, qualifying questions to build a personal rapport of trust and also reveals their pain.

Some of the questions that Andy recommends revolve around the idea of connecting with somebody, including this one:

“How’d you get started in your job or this industry?” The attendee will regard this question as a sign of your interest in them. Most people, as adults, are not doing what they thought they’d like to do as a kid. By asking this question, it recognizes that somewhere along the way, they took a left turn from their intended or desired career to get where they are now. People like to talk about themselves, and a question like this will reveal a lot of things that may be important.  Other staffers in other booths tend to focus on product benefits, company marketing bullet points – in other words, it’s all ME ME ME, and if you ask about THEM you have made an impact. You have made yourself memorable.

engaging with visitors
engaging with visitors

As you get a couple of minutes into the conversation and you’ve uncovered that they may be using a competiting product, ask a COLLECTION question, such as, “What would you change about your current product if you could?”  The tradeshow floor is a tremendous opportunity for market research, and if you’re in the midst of a one on one engagement, you can uncover elements of how they use that product. In fact, they might list the top three or four things about that product that they’d like to change – stuff they don’t like.

In this instant, you have someone who is a user of your competitor’s products, telling you specific things that they don’t like about that product. Can you imagine having that conversation 10, 15, 20 times a day and what market research would come from that?

That’s when you can say, “Well, just so you know, our product does such and such and solves those problems, so if you’re ever in the position to switch, we’d be glad to talk to you.” You’ve planted a seed that may help them grow into a client.


Now it’s time to wrap up the qualifying stage of the conversation. Take the information they’ve given you and feed it back to them: “Let me see if I have this correct: you’re looking for a product or service that has this feature and this feature, so that you can reach this goal of doing this and as a result you get this benefit and this benefit. Do I have that right?”

As Andy put it, when you’re saying this to the attendee, you’ll hear your voice and all of the noise of the tradeshow floor, but the attendee will hear angels. Because somebody on a tradeshow floor listened to them!

The sale is nearly 90% complete in this moment. All other details, like size, delivery options and so on can be worked out.

Your tradeshow booth staff is the front line. They represent your company from sunup to sundown in every moment on the tradeshow floor. How they represent you may be the difference between winning that big client or distributor for your product. If they don’t know how to engage attendees properly, you may not even know what you missed.

Andy Saks, Spark Presentations, excels in tradeshow presentations and tradeshow training for booth staff. Check out his page and the fun video. You’ll no doubt learn something very worthwhile!

Click here to grab my Tradeshow Follow-up Checklist

A man hears what he wants to hear and disregards the rest

“…Still, a man hears what he wants to hear
And disregards the rest.”

That’s a line from a Paul Simon song, The Boxer, recorded by Simon and Garfunkel.

And it happens all the time. “Selective hearing,” according to my wife, and perhaps many other spouses.

But does that sort of thing happen on the tradeshow floor? Do people see what they want to see and disregard the rest?

Do people see that cool, shiny new product and disregard the great support that your team offers for every purchase?

Do your visitors see the famous author in your booth, wait in line for a free autographed copy of her new book, and yet fail to see the great products that you’re selling?

Do attendees see the giant spinning logo above your booth but fail to see how your company’s story relates to them?

Of course, there’s no way that everybody at a show will see every aspect of your (or other) booths.

So what are they missing that you might do a better job at communicating to them?

People’s Choice Awards: Vote Today and Again Tomorrow!


One of our recent booth projects over the summer was a custom portable modular booth for the Toronto-based company SoYoung. The project turned out so great and people loved the look, that the design and fabrication team at Classic Exhibits thought it should be entered in the Exhibitor Portable/Modular, which recognizes design excellence. So it was. And it made the finals round where you, the public, get to vote!

Classic Exhibits also had two other projects make it to the finals round: Philadelphia Commercial and Nationwide.

The rules for the voting are simple: you can vote only once a day, but you can vote every day.

To vote, simply go here. To learn more about the awards, check this page.

Thanks to SoYoung for letting us design and fabricate their exhibit, and for letting us enter it in the design excellence contest.

And to see a full gallery of photos of the SoYoung booth, check it out here.

Tradeshow Exhibit Design and Fabrication Timeline

You want a successful tradeshow exhibit design and fabrication process, naturally. A number of factors come into play in the process, including (but not limited to) the timeline. When do you start the process?


It depends upon your current status: do you already have a booth and simply want to upgrade, or are you starting from scratch? Do you want to move up from a small 10×10 or 10×20 inline booth to a larger island? While you intuitively know where you are, the first step of the process is to take a few moments and write it all down. Share it with all team members. You may want to do a full Request for Proposal from potential new exhibit houses, or you may be comfortable with your current vendor and simply want to communicate the desire to upgrade to them.

In any event, make and share the assessment with those that will be involved.

One Year Prior to the Show

If you’re essential starting from scratch, you should probably look at the entire project from the 30,000 foot level about 9 months to a year out from the show date when you’ll want the new exhibit. This gives you a chance to determine a comprehensive and detailed budget. Having this budget document that includes all related costs such as storage, potential shipping, set-up costs and so forth will reduce the element of surprise for you and management once the project is officially under way.

This early discussion should also look at the main shows that you’ll be using the new booth at. Some companies have large booths that are used only once or twice a year, while they use smaller inline or popup booths at smaller shows. Look at things such as show goals and objectives, audience, traffic flow, etc.

Provide your exhibit house with a design brief detailing all of the elements of your new exhibit: size of booth, show goals, meeting spaces, storage, demo areas, branding elements, etc.

Six Months Out

Bu now you should be starting regular conversations with your exhibit house in earnest and their designer should be working from your design brief.

Your booth builder will want to have as much information as you can provide about the show such as dates, location, and other details. You may even want to provide them with your show marketing strategy and details so that they are aware of how you will promote your show appearance.

Four Months Out

You should have reviewed at least one or two designs and walked through any revisions with your 3D booth designer. You’re in the stage of finalizing all of the details prior to fabrication.

Graphic designers will have received graphic placement details and graphic dimensions from the booth designer and should be developing graphics in conjunction with the marketing team.

Reach out to I&D companies for early estimates and availabilities for set-up of the new booth, if it’s a larger booth that requires a set-up team.

Sometime in the next few weeks, depending on your exhibit house’s capabilities, the booth will go through fabrication.

One Month Prior to the Show


A walk-through with a booth set-up will be arranged and all graphics will be completed and placed. Any final items that need to be changed will result in a punch list that will need to complete by the exhibit house prior to crating and shipping.

This is when you’ll make final arrangements for shipping, I&D and storage if they haven’t been made yet.

Small Booths

Smaller booths, such as modular, kit or pop-ups don’t follow the longer timeline that custom island booths demand. Many can be chosen from a catalog and ordered quickly once graphic files are completed and are often capable of being shipped in less than a month, and depending on the complexity of the booth, in just a week or two.

At the Show

You have a great booth! Set-up was flawless because your exhibit house furnished thorough and easy-to-follow instructions for the I&D team. Your job is to work the show, talk with visitors and generate new business!




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Tradeshow Guy Blog by Tim Patterson

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